MNTL Hilights report web (Apr. 2016) - Page 30

MNTL KNOWLEDGE & EXPERTISE IMPACTS THE WORLD MNTL TAKES LEADERSHIP ROLE IN FOOD SAFETY Aware of MNTL’s expertise in sensing technology, the National Science Foundation invited MNTL faculty and staff to lead an international workshop on food safety and expanding the world’s food supply, which took place in Arlington, VA, in October 2014. Seventy industry, government, and academic experts in the field of global food safety identified the most pressing gaps in the food safety infrastructure. This workshop has led to research investments by NSF that impact fundamental new approaches in sensing, take advantage of the emerging capabilities of “big data” networks for managing traceability within global supply chains, and incorporate new capabilities into food processing equipment and packaging. In addition to co-hosting the event, MNTL Director Cunningham presented his group’s research progress on developing microfluidic technologies that can be incorporated into inexpensive plastic cartridges that interface with a smartphone or tablet to perform common quality control tests in the field. MNTL also co-hosted the October 2014 invitation-only Nanosensor Networks and Exabyte Analysis Farm to Fork workshop in Urbana, where thought leaders from industry, academia, and government discussed the development of new technologies in order to feed the world’s 9 billion people over the next 40 years. Participants addressed how to develop and apply a new class of sensing modalities, which can provide detailed and distributed information about chemical components, protein makeup, pathogen presence, plant metabolism, and pest invasion, combined with environmental monitoring, that has not been available previously. Already advancements in nanoscale sensors are achieving unprecedented levels of sensitivity and specificity. Nanoplasmonics, silicon-based sensors, nanopores, flexible/printable optoelectronics, biodegradable photonic resonators, and protein‐based nanoparticle image contrast agents all offer the potential for robustness and cost that may enable researchers to produce broadly distributed arrays of miniature sensors and mobile detection instruments to increase farm efficiency and food safety. 30